Mali’s legacy hangs in the balance
BANGALORE, APRIL 8. The fate of an institution that was founded by the great flutist, the late T.R.Mahalingam, in 1973, and a disciple of the maestro who “inherited his legacy,” hangs in the balance as the State Government has reportedly turned a deaf ear to request for assistance.
Mahalingam, who was fondly known as Mali, founded the Ramakrishna Bhajana Mandali in 1973 at Palace Guttahalli in Bangalore.
Bhajans were held at the Mandali, which was then located in a small house, on every Saturday. Renowned musicians from various parts of the country performed at the Mandali, which was considered to be a “temple” by music lovers in Bangalore.
However, when Mali moved to the U.S. in 1981, he entrusted a “good disciple” of his and a talented flautist in his own right, Mr. B.M.Sundar Rao, with the responsibility of running the Mandali.
Mali, in a letter dated August 8, 1981, said that he was entrusting to Mr. Sundar Rao the responsibility of ensuring the sound functioning of the mandali, and appealed to music lovers to contribute to its continuance.
After Mali passed away in 1986, Mr. Sundar Rao renamed the Ramakrishna Bhajan Mandali as the Flute T.R.Mahalingam Memorial School of Music.
Apart from sustaining the activities started by his “guru,” Mr. Sundar Rao started conducting free classes in playing the flute.
Mr. Sunder Rao told this Correspondent that from 1986 more than 4,000 students were taught to play the flute at the institute. Mr. Sunder Rao’s son now conducts free mridangam classes there.
A unique distinction of Mr. Sunder Rao, who has given a large number of performances in Paris, France, Italy, Holland, Germany and the U.K., is that he not only plays the flute but also manufactures the musical instrument. Though he spends a lot of money on procuring bamboo from Tamil Nadu and Kerala and oils that are required to treat the bamboo for making flutes, he distributes them free of cost to his students.
“Except in rare cases where I charge Rs. 50 to Rs. 100 per flute, I give away the flutes free to my students,” Mr. Sundar Rao said.
The 62-year-old Mr. Sundar Rao said that with his only source of income being the money he earned by giving concerts and the monthly honorarium of Rs. 250 received from the State Government, it was difficult for him to run the institute (which is now housed in a rented room) and conduct free classes.
Many requests made by him to the State Government to sanction a site to set up the institute have not yielded results.
The Home Minister, Mr. Mallikarjuna Kharge, and the Public Works Minister, Mr. Dharam Singh, while in the Opposition, had recommended Mr. Sundar Rao’s case to the Government.
Recently, the Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Council, Mr. K.H. Srinivasa, wrote to the Minister of State for Kannada and Culture, Ms. Rani Satish, requesting her to provide assistance to Mr. Sundar Rao.
Unhappy over the Government’s apathy, Mr. Sunder Rao, who was recently honoured with the Kalashri Award by the Karnataka Sangeetha Nritya Academy, first thought of returning the award. “But I reconsidered my decision on the advice of a few friends and well-wishers.”